When to swipe right

When To Swipe Right: Who Should You Partner With to Evaluate Your Program

In our prior post we discussed when to consider 3rd party evaluations and introduced our experience working with 3rd parties to evaluate your program. In this post we’ll explore how we chose a partner to work with.


As you will not have a direct, managerial relationship with your assessor it is imperative to select the right person. Unlike a traditional employee, you will likely not be in a position to direct research or request changes. This is one of the reasons audiences appreciate 3rd party evaluations- the results are less likely to be ‘spun’ to yield a positive message.

We were fortunate to have an existing relationship with faculty at a local university. We’d recommend the following criteria in selecting an evaluator:

  1. Relationship- an existing relationship with individual or institution accelerates the ramp up process and trust; rather than having to explain program and goals and worry about agendas
  2. Network- an institution with a reputation and connections in your field will facilitate data sharing and enable future learning
  3. Motivation- we worked with students who had to meet school deadlines, this aligned with our goal of sharing data promptly
  4. Location- Students attended school nearby and were able to meet in person for discussions, data collection, and presentations; we often turn down researchers who are visiting South Africa
  5. Skills- does the researcher’s skills, knowledge, and experience match your organization’s desired assessment; this was an easy win for us as our assessor was in the Master’s program for ‘Program Evaluation’ and tasked to partner with an NGO
  6. Affinity- is the researcher supportive of your program; while our researcher did not surf, she was a scholar athlete who we felt would understand the benefits of sports in her own life

We paired this checklist with several meetings and agreements to facilitate the process being win-win. We’ve worked on three major 3rd party assessments over the past two years and each had her own strengths and weaknesses. You should expect personality traits to be amplified under the stress of academic deadlines, challenging ‘on-the-ground’ NGO logistics, and marrying the two worlds. However,we found a little effort put in upfront to find a suitable partner paid off in the long run. In fact, we’ve hired researchers to join our team to support M&E efforts.